On the thirtieth of September, Laura and I were picked up in Tegucigalpa by the van from Montaña de Luz. David, the hired van driver and a Honduran who had lived in Ohio for three years, Kristen, the in-country director and the only US employee of Montaña de Luz in Honduras, Amanda, a US volunteer who will be here through December, and Dunia, a Honduran volunteer, met us at the Clarion Hotel. Montaña de Luz is preparing for an Open House on October 19th. The staff and the volunteers have been busy delivering invitations to organizations and individuals with connections to the orphanage, such that they were taking advantage of picking us up to hand deliver the invitations. Hand delivery is the only secure means of delivering anything in Honduras. We met a sixty year old motorcyclist who belongs to a motorcycle club at a grocery store as we headed out of Tegucigalpa. He and his motorcycle “gang” have made a number of trips to Montaña de Luz to be with the kids and give them rides on their bikes. They’ve done this at a lot of the orphanages, generally referred to as “hogares,” homes. Whereas Montaña de Luz concerns itself with abandoned or at risk kids who are HIV +, Honduras has a vast number of kids living in institutional settings; abandoned, neglected, or simply labeled as “at risk.” As we made our way out of the rim of the crater which encircles Tegucigalpa and down the mountains, we were about to meet some of the most “at risk” kids in Honduras.
But one of the most promising and inspiring realities of this world is that kids, from whatever culture, speaking whatever language, always express the greatness of our humanity in their capacity for love and trust. They gathered with a banner that read “Welcome Laura and Paul” and “We love you” to greet us upon our arrival in the van. They all tried to speak English, but were relieved to learn that we spoke sufficient Spanish that they didn’t have to. We were exhausted the first day and did little more than acquaint ourselves with our quarters and went to bed. We learned that we will be living on campus here for about a month before moving down to town. Both Laura and I have felt a little insecurity. What will we do? Do they really need us here? What if they don’t really like us, or want us? But the next day the kids gathered around us. We have been reading with them, coloring with them, and learning their names – trying to distinguish one from the other. They have been climbing all over us. Laura and I have enjoyed walking with them to school in the morning, and walking back down into the town with them in the afternoon to see the progress of their bicycles. A local mechanic is fixing them. They have been wonderful; a joy and a privilege to get to know.
We have also been trying to figure out what our work will be. We have been reading and organizing files. They were in something of a neglected state, and we are trying to give them a semblance of order. As you might imagine there are horror stories contained in those files. We will probably be working on meeting families and other agencies of support in the community, developing some plans to return these children safely and securely to the communities. We have already begun laying some of the foundations for this. We will probably also work closely with a new psychologist who was hired six months ago, again developing plans for the adolescents and perhaps figuring out a means of further training for the staff here. There is plenty of work to be done. We won’t be bored.
In one week we’ve been anything but bored. I have personally killed three scorpions. Last night we witnessed a tarantula climb over one of the walls where we are living and disappear into the room where the psychologist has been staying through the weekend. We can’t be sure if it was the same tarantula, but tonight after returning from a trip to visit another hogar, one hung high on the wall in our kitchen. I wasn’t scared or anything like that, but not knowing the protocol, and not wanting to insult anyone by taking away his job, I told the vigilante (watchman) here, and he came and killed it. He was very appreciative that I called upon his skills and talents. Yesterday, I spent the day running to the bathroom, perhaps because I accidently drank some water, but today I seem fine. Our meals have been, well, the word ‘interesting’ comes to mind. Some have been great, but last night’s scrambled eggs with a side of sour cream will probably not win any culinary awards. There aren’t many cars here, and the lack of them must convince the horses and cows that the roads were placed there for them. We have running water at Montaña de Luz, but there is not any in the town. The electricity has gone out only once. There have been a few challenges, but we love it and we’re still smiling. But then again, what else would we do?